Monday, April 26, 2004

Baseball and Business

Poor Alex decided he really was after the ring more than the dollars after all. I wonder if his timing is off? He jumped ship for the Yankees only to find the Rangers picking up the pace (they're solidly above .500 now; we won't mention that it was at the expense of the Mariners) while the Yanks are looking for a beer in which to drown their sorrows. The good thing about the sport - both for Alex and the Mariners (okay, the Yankees too) - is that in baseball, anything can happen. I'm sure they'll all turn things around... maybe even the Mariners. You've still got a ballgame, even when you're down to your very last out. How can you NOT like baseball?

Well, certainly I've known a few in my day who didn't. What I found was that most of them weren't engaged enough. I suppose that's true of just about any sport. What is surprising is how much of the human element is involved in the process of getting involved in a sport.

Go ahead, try this little game... you've got tickets to your favorite sport and your drinking buddy backs out at the last minute. You've got to find a replacement so you grab someone else, someone you don't hate, a date, maybe your brother... and it turns out this person doesn't know a thing about baseball (if you don't know a thing about baseball, think of another sport or try this on yourself; it's just a game for crying out loud). So now you're faced with the likelihood of having to leave before the seventh inning stretch because they drove and they're bored. Here's what you do - point out something unusual or interesting (to your seat partner, right? That's the person you want to be more involved in the game) about a player - they share a birthday, a hometown, he and his wife do charity work for kids with serious illnesses (works best on the women), you get the idea.

Now that your seatmate is focused on a particular player, mention whenever that person does anything noteworthy like getting a hit or making a play. You can also explain other little things this player might be doing (- See there, it looks like he's talking to the second baseman about strategy but really, they've already got that part all figured out and they're just talking about some hot babe in the stands over there. - Really?) or explain what they need to be thinking about next. What you're doing here is personalizing the game and that makes it more engaging. Go ahead and try it; see if it doesn't change someone's outlook on the sport.

This same principle is why people like to vote folks into elected office that they've met, even if there may be big differences in how they approach matters. We tend to trust those we know more than those we don't.

It's also the same principle that makes us more inclined to give somebody we know the benefit of the doubt when things don't go well as opposed to assuming they're an idiot or they're intentionally trying to make our lives miserable.

This last one is particularly helpful in the business world so think about getting to know your co-workers, especially those who work in other departments that historically don't get along so well with your own. Find out what they do when they're not working; look for interests you might share in common. You might be surprised at the kind of social capital that builds for you both and how much easier it is to get work done.

Send your baseball predictions and any tips you have on building social capital to me at I prefer good news about the Mariners though I appreciate the truth and helping others succeed even more.

How would building social capital at work help you?